Grandparent and Step-parent Rights

As family law attorneys in Anderson, South Carolina, the law firm of Thomason & Pracht are often asked about the rights of grandparents and step-parents in terms of visitation and other matters that concern a minor child.

South Carolina Grandparent Visitation

Grandparents sitting with their grandchild

Like many other states, grandparent’s rights, divorce, and child custody are all dictated by state law. In South Carolina, visitation by grandparents may be allowed if it is in the best interest of the child.

More specifically, a grandparent may be granted visitation in South Carolina if:

  1. Your grandchild’s parents have died
  2. Your grandchild’s parents have divorced or not living together
  3. Your grandchild’s parents are preventing you from seeing the child
  4. Your visits won’t interfere with the relationship your grandchild has with its parents
  5. Your grandchild’s parents are unfit
  6. Circumstances exist that overcome the parent’s decision to prevent you from visiting your grandchild.

A qualified South Carolina family law firm can assist you in demonstrating to the court that there are circumstances that warrant the court granting you visitation with your grandchild.

South Carolina Grandparents and Custody of a Grandchild

While it’s preferred that your grandchild is raised by its parents, there are certain circumstances where the court may intervene. If you have a close bond with your grandchild or you’ve been the child’s primary caregiver, you may be able to have your attorney petition the court for custody.  In order to do so, you must be able to prove that:

  1. The parents have abandoned your grandchild
  2. The parents have consistently neglected your grandchild
  3. One of the parents have relinquished their rights to the child to someone other than the other parent
  4. The parents refuse to carry out their normal parental responsibilities

Because grandparent’s rights are limited in South Carolina, the law firm of Thomason & Pracht recommend that you hire qualified family law attorneys to help you build your case, file the necessary paperwork with the court, and be your advocate in court to ensure all your rights are protected.

Step-parent Rights

Unfortunately, as a step-parent, you don’t have any rights to custody and/or visitation in South Carolina unless you have adopted your stepchildren. In your divorce, the judge will determine what is in the best interest of the child and base his custody and visitation decisions on that factor. However, it’s unlikely that the court will act against a biological parent’s wishes.

However, there can be limited circumstances that may allow you to request visitation and/or custody.

De Facto Custodian – Grandparents and Step-parents

The South Carolina Children’s Code does allow someone who can prove that they’ve been the child’s de facto guardian and request custody or visitation with the child. A de facto guardian is someone who is the current or recent caregiver for a child and that the court has determined to have assumed the role of a parent to the child on a day-to-day basis. This means that you have assumed the duties of fulfilling the child’s needs for care and affection over a substantial length of time.

In South Carolina, to be deemed a de facto custodian you must show by clear and convincing evidence that you have been the primary person taking care of the child and provided financial support.  In addition, there must be evidence that:

  1. You have lived with the child for at least 6 months or more if the child is under the age of 3; or
  2. You have lived with the child for over a year if the child is older than 3 years of age

Psychological Parent

One alternative to a de facto custodian is a “psychological parent”. A “psychological parent” may be granted visitation with the child, even over any objections by the biological parents if you can prove:

  1. The biological parent consented to and encouraged your parent-like relationship with the child
  2. You and the child lived in the same house
  3. You took significant responsibility for the child in terms of the child’s care, development, education, and financial support
  4. You have been in a parent-like relationship with the child long enough to establish a parental relationship in terms of bonding.

Either a step-parent or a grandparent may be able to meet the standards set by the court in terms of being a de facto guardian or a “psychological parent” relationship with the child.

Call a South Carolina Adoption Attorney today!

The South Carolina law offices of Thomason & Pracht, LLC, encourage you to hire a qualified family law attorney to assist you with any grandparent or step-parent custody or visitation matters. Family law is quite complex and it’s important that you have an advocate, such as an attorney, to fight for you in court and help you navigate the complex family laws in terms of custody and visitation.